COVINGTON, Ga. - Sam Hay III has been involved with the community of Covington his entire life. The aspect of Covington he sees as most unique, and what he likes most, is the true community feeling.
“[Covington] maintains the small community feeling even though it has grown over the years,” he said. This is why he immediately saw the benefits of joining the Community Improvement District Board in 2014. “It just seemed like a natural way for landowners to contribute their own time and money but to also get back so much in return. It just made total sense.”
He was originally approached about 17 or 18 years ago by Jim Weadick, retired CEO of the hospital, with the idea of forming a CID. Even though it took until 2014 to form the Highway 278 CID, Weadick deserves credit for the “brainchild.”
Before the CID was officially formed last year, a legal entity titled the Legal Association of Property Owners (Highway 278 Improvement Association) met regularly to lead to the legal formation of the CID. As a result of their hard work and dedication, the Newton County Community Improvement District Act was approved by the state legislature and signed into law by the governor in 2017.
This act allows for the creation of any CID within Newton County which could potentially lead to the improvement of other corridors or locations in Newton County in the future.
When asked what inspired him to join the board and commit his time to this project, he said, “The concept of a Community Improvement District seemed to be a perfect idea of harnessing both private and public initiative, energy, and resources (money) to make things happen for our community.”
The CID has a variety of projects they plan to accomplish including gateways, street trees, signals, medians, ease of bicyclists and pedestrians, etc. However, Hay is not more excited about one specific project over another. As a whole, he is looking forward to “rejuvenating our community and improving the quality of this corridor.”
The main challenges the CID has faced and continues to face seem to be unanimous from the board members. The largest hurdle at the moment and moving forward is funding.
“Developing a vision and setting goals has not been difficult for us,” he said. Convincing others has been the main issue.
“The city and county absolutely can and should participate in the funding of this because the impact on the community and the ripple effect will be huge. If we change the whole look and feel of the main commercial corridor, it will have an effect on the whole community, not just the folks who own land there.” Our vision is to become Georgia’s most desirable community to live, work, play, and shop. Despite the challenges they have faced, he has faith their goals will be accomplished no matter how long it may take.
One important skill Hay must utilize as a CID board member is maintaining relationships. “The world is all about relationships, and as a CID board member I need to build and maintain those individual relationships. Second is using those relationships for the good of the community.” The more relationships you have, the more those people will want to interact and do business with you. Throughout his time as a community member and influential board member, he has learned to find people he is willing to be respectfully honest with while verbalizing his opinions. “I truly believe two people can disagree without being disagreeable.”
Hay believes in coordinated planning for the community. The community is better when many organizations are “working together to push the community in the right direction so the community, in general, is in favor of taking them forward.” When community leaders work together and towards the common goal of improving the community, everyone benefits. “People want to be a part of something good, new, and exciting. The CID could be a wonderful catalyst for this.” It is important to keep building the kind of community people will want to live in and without initiatives such as the Highway 278 CID our community will go backward.
The CID puts the community first and is transparent in their actions. One of their core beliefs is the Highway 278 CID is for the whole community, not just property owners. Everyone has an opportunity to benefit from these improvements. Another goal of the CID is to improve the value of the land for the benefit of the property owners. Besides just the financial benefits, he also sees pride as an intangible benefit to both the property owners and the community.
“If the area is beautified the owners and citizens of the community will take a lot of pride in what they own.”
However, many of the property owners have not been vocal with the CID regarding their questions and concerns. The tendency is for people not to pay attention or speak up until they see things affecting them. But the CID doesn’t want to get to a point where the physical projects have started and property owners are unaware and feel like they were not asked about their opinion.
In Hay’s opinion, “The burden is on us to communicate and communicate again. We have been guilty of not over-communicating.” If they communicate more often, people will be more likely to get involved.
One of the most important tasks that falls on the board is exciting the community about the Highway 278 CID. Without the excitement people will not see the positive aspects of the CID and their intentions.
“We need to generate the excitement and the interest in the CID. We can do this by communicating repetitively, having celebratory functions, running ads, and doing both tangible and intangible forms of communication.”
This is what will have an impact on the citizens who might not yet know about the CID, but it is up to the Highway 278 CID board to teach them. The CID has created a Facebook page and website to begin this process.
During this interview process I have learned that leaders come in all shapes and sizes. This CID Board believes community involvement in a leadership role is critical to become the community we should be.
If you have any questions about the CID email email@example.com, or visit the websites: http://278cid.com and http://www.thomasandhutton.com/278cid/cid-master-plan.html.